May 7, 2013

[Books] Morgawr (The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara Book 3)

The Shannara books of Terry Brooks were actually my first foray into the world of fantasy novels, for one reason or another. Yes, I read Shannara before I read The Lord of the Rings. And so the books have always held a special place in my heart, and thus my continued efforts to follow the series throughout the years.

In recent years I had only been investing time in the prequel novels that aim to marry the Brooks-created worlds of the Word & Void series with the Shannara books. It's only now that I decided to finally pick things up where I had left off - just before the conclusion of The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy of books. Don't ask my why I didn't read book 3 right away - it just sort of happened that way.

It was surprisingly easy for me to pick up where I had left off so many years ago. It just goes to show how (1) decently memorable the Shannara books are or (2) just how strong the "pattern" of such books tend to be. Similar to the David Eddings books, I've always felt that Brooks has a tendency to go back to familiar patterns in his stories. The fact that both the Blue Elfstones and the Sword of Shannara continue to survive across the generations of his characters really leans in that direction.

But it doesn't mean that the books aren't fun.

Synopsis: Morgawr is the third and final novel in Terry Brooks' The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy of books. It is right between the story arcs of the Heritage of Shannara and the High Druid of Shannara.

The book begins with us finally getting to be more involved with the Morgawr, the titular character who is actually the master of the Ilse Witch who has been hounding our heroes across the past two books. Thus we get to find out what he had been up to after the Black Moclips left in pursuit of the Jerle Shannara - and how quickly he had determined the Ilse Witch's potential treachery as she aimed to gain the power of Parkasia for herself. Thus he manages to gather his own armada of airships and mindless human crews to take his forces to her.

Back in the "present" time, the ancient computer intelligence Anthrax is dead and the druid Walker Boh lies dying. The Ilse Witch, who is really Grianne Ohmsford, has been made to face the truth of her actions since she became the Morgawr's pawn through the unyielding magic of the Sword of Shannara. Now she's semi-catatonic given the trauma of being made to face the truth of her life. So now Bek Ohmsford has to try and save her given the knowledge that this is her sister and they'll have to eventually deal with all the grudges that their party holds against the Witch. But time is running out and the Morgawr is already in Parkasia with his fleet while the crew of the Jerle Shannara remain scattered all over the island.

It is always rather fascinating how the Sword of Shannara has remained a central artifact throughout all the books. And at its most basic level, all it does is reveal all the truths about a person. And thus the power of the sword is one that requires both the wielder and its target to deal with all the truths of their life, even the little self-deceptions that we all maintain about ourselves. There have been times when the weapon has felt rather hokey compared to other great artifacts of the fantasy world, but Brooks has always found a way to make things work.

I also liked how this book (or maybe this trilogy) stressed the limitations of his concept of magic. More often than not, magical artifacts like the Elfstones or the enchanted Sword of Leah are only especially effective against other magical threats. Otherwise, their benefits become severely limited, and thus the characters have to rely more on their natural skills more than anything else. And thus in this book, we really got to see just how important the non-magical Rovers are in dealing with the diverse threats of Parkasia and the Morgawr's forces as much as the others.

Brooks still has his nasty habit of killing of characters almost haphazardly. And to this effect I can't help but feel he repeatedly pads his protagonist parties with all these disposable characters to aid him to that effect. To be fair, he does kill off some "lead" characters in this book, but it's also the end of the trilogy so that's to be expected.

Compared to the action of the second book in this series, this one seemed to involve a lot more running away. Sure the Morgawr's forces were formidable and pretty much overwhelming but the running got kind of droll over time. And this is because running away time is, of course, character development time as well as we had to deal with Bek's efforts of trying to draw out Grianne from the Ilse Witch's shell.It's certainly a noble goal, but one takes a fair amount of stumbling about before Bek figures out what to do. And as is often the case, the trick that finally helps open her eyes isn't all that amazing.

The book naturally ends with the expected magical confrontation and the outcome is rather predictable once you learn where the final battle takes place. Talk about a massive case of obvious foreshadowing. It doesn't make it a bad ending, but it does make things rather predictable to a degree, moreso if you've read a lot of these books.

Morgawr is still a decent way to wrap up this trilogy and I appreciated Brooks' efforts not to employ too many of his Shannara tropes built-up over the years. It doesn't quite get me excited to read the next trilogy, but of course I will read them in time. Thus the book gets a decent 3.5 last-minute rescues out of a possible 5.

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